The Medical Minute: Hope for those with vision loss

February 27, 2012 By Marianne E. Boltz, Pennsylvania State University

One of the most difficult things optometrists and ophthalmologists must tell a patient is that he or she has an eye disease that already has or could permanently rob them of their vision. Today, the most common diseases in the adult population that cause permanent vision loss are macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Although treatments are available for each of these diseases that can either slow down or prevent further loss of sight, there are far too many individuals whose vision declines regardless of medical intervention. Losing vision as an adult affects every aspect of that person’s life: most importantly, the loss of independence and quality of life.

While becoming visually impaired or legally blind is life-changing, hope is not lost for these individuals. Low vision rehabilitation is a multidisciplinary approach to provide visual assistance for any person with acquired , making the most of his or her remaining vision through the use of magnifying aids or other devices to perform daily tasks. These tasks often include reading, watching TV, using a computer, cooking and pursuing hobbies. Optometrists who specialize in low vision rehabilitation perform thorough evaluations to assess a person’s current visual function and then make recommendations for devices to achieve his or her desired goal. For example, getting someone to read the newspaper again could involve prescribing a much stronger bifocal prescription, an illuminated hand-held magnifier or even a high-tech video magnifier/closed-circuit TV. Helping someone watch TV, attend a concert or watch his grandkids play soccer could involve the use of a hand-held monocular telescope or telescopic glasses.

Learning to use low vision devices takes motivation, practice and patience on the part of the patient, but the rewards certainly outweigh the effort. Many studies have shown that although the rate of depression skyrockets in those with recently acquired vision loss, low vision rehabilitation helps to reduce depression by increasing independence and self-worth. Another advantage is that teaching seniors with vision loss new daily living skills to make them more independent can keep them in their own homes longer (rather than seeking the care of an independent living or nursing facility).

Optometrists are not the only care providers to offer special assistance to those with low vision. Occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, orientation and mobility specialists and low vision therapists all offer unique ways to rehabilitate those with vision loss. Many of these providers are employed by state and local agencies as well as VA Hospitals. In Pennsylvania, a division of the Department of the Labor & Industry called the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind both offer social, vocational and rehabilitation services to state residents.

Explore further: Millions with low vision stay active by using special tools

More information: To learn more about vision impairment, low vision rehabilitation or to find a low vision optometrist in your area, go to the Pennsylvania Optometric Association website at pennsylvania.aoa.org

Related Stories

Millions with low vision stay active by using special tools

October 10, 2011
As a pre-teen, Amber McMahon was a voracious reader. When she stopped curling up with her favorite books, her family chalked it up to adolescent distractions. When she asked to sit closer to the blackboard in school, her ...

Kellogg researcher helping eye care providers better assess driving in older adults

August 22, 2011
Drivers over age 65 are the fastest-growing segment of the driving population, and their eye care providers—ophthalmologists and optometrists—are playing an increasingly important role in assessing their ability ...

Recommended for you

Study advances gene therapy for glaucoma

January 16, 2018
While testing genes to treat glaucoma by reducing pressure inside the eye, University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists stumbled onto a problem: They had trouble getting efficient gene delivery to the cells that act like drains ...

New study offers added hope for patients awaiting corneal transplants

January 9, 2018
New national research led by Jonathan Lass of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that corneal donor tissue can be safely stored for 11 days before transplantation surgery to correct eye problems ...

Diabetic blindness caused and reversed "trapped" immune cells in rodent retinas

January 3, 2018
Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered a cell signaling pathway in mice that triggers vision loss in patients with diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein occlusion – diseases characterized by the closure of blood vessels ...

Ophthalmologists increasingly dissatisfied with electronic health records

December 29, 2017
Ophthalmologists' use of electronic health records (EHR) systems for storing and accessing patients' medical histories more than doubled between 2006 and 2016, while their perceptions of financial and clinical productivity ...

Higher omega-3 fatty acid intake tied to lower glaucoma risk

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—Increased daily intake of ω-3 fatty acids is associated with lower odds of glaucoma, but higher levels of total polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake are associated with higher odds of developing glaucoma, ...

Protein analysis allows for treatment of eye-disease symptoms with existing drugs

December 21, 2017
Demonstrating the potential of precision health, a team led by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine has matched existing drugs to errant proteins expressed by patients with a rare eye disease.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.